Domesticated mice are descendants of the house mouse or scientific name ‘Mus musculus’. The house mouse originated in Asia but are now found all over the world, particularly where people are present. The earliest domesticated mice were kept in the royal palaces of Japan and China. Mice were also used in various writings such as Aesops Fables.
Mouse association with humans goes back to the dawn of history. In biblical times plagues of mice were recorded and ancient egyptians kept mice as pets believing they had super natural powers.
Throughout history mice have been worshipped and damned. The common little house mouse played its part in the largest mass death of human kind – the Black Plague of Europe that killed millions of people in medieval times.
The mouse has been the source of cult worship and has, throughout our history, greatly influenced the economies of entire civilizations. Mice can eat their way through millions of tons of grain crops in a year, so it is no wonder that these little rodents have been the target of government attempts to control them.
Mouse control has included attempts to trap them, hunt them and burn them, but to no avail. Mice reproduce at a high rate and anywhere that humans settled, mice would soon settle there too and produce high populations.
For many centuries, until very recent times, the mouse was used as one of numerous ingredients in potions and lotions believed to cure all manner of problems from diseases and lumps, to infertility and cataracts.
By 1787 fancy mice were well established in Japan with white and dominant spotted varieties and other colors. The first fancy mouse in the UK, The British National Mouse Club, was formed in 1895.
Today, a mouse is seen as a different source to different people. To a child, it is a lovely, cute little furry pet, playful and inquisitive. To a scientist, it is an animal that provides a constant source of information, while to the zoologist it is both a fascinating creature to study and the most readily available source of food for reptiles, amphibians etc.
The fancy mouse began to disappear from pet shops, though it remained a popular exhibition animal with dedicated fanciers. In recent years, the mouse, as well as the rat, has enjoyed something of a renewal and is once again seen in pet shops.
- Mice do not hibernate, however, white-footed mice may become completely inactive for a few days when winter weather is severe.
- White-footed mice spend a great deal of time in trees. Occasionally they re-furbish abandoned bird or squirrel nests, by adding a protective ‘roof’ of twigs and leaves. Generally, all mice nest at or below ground level or in buildings.
- Mice possess amazing physical capabilities that enable them to gain entry to structures by climbing, crawling, jumping or gnawing. Mice are also good swimmers, particularly meadow voles which are known to cross open water to seek food and shelter.
- The house mouse out-performs all mice in physical capabilities which makes control of it more difficult. Also, house mice constantly explore their environment and can be found in a wider range of locations.
- Most mice quickly detect new objects in their environment but, unlike rats, do not fear them. Therefore, they will almost immediately enter bait stations and traps and willingly sample new food items.
- Studies indicate that wild mice normally travel within an area averaging 3 to 10 metres (10 to 30 feet.) in diameter to obtain food, shelter and water.
- Mice have poor vision, hence their activity patterns rely heavily on smell, taste, touch and hearing.
- The whiskers and hairs enable the mouse to travel in the dark, adjacent to walls in burrows.
- Mice also have an excellent sense of balance, enabling them to walk along telephone wires, ropes and similar thin objects.
- Mice are excellent jumpers, capable of leaping at least 12 inches vertically.
- Mice can jump against a flat vertical surface using it as a spring board to gain additional height. They can run up almost any vertical surface; wood, brick, weathered sheet metal, cables, etc. They can easily travel for some distance hanging upside down.
- Although they are good swimmers, mice tend to take to water only if left with no other alternative.
- House mice breed throughout the year and can become pregnant within 48 hours of producing a litter. There are usually about 6 mice to a litter and females may produce as many as ten litters (about 50 young) per year. It takes 21 to 23 days for gestation and 35 days for a mouse to mature.